Liberia: Supreme Court Wants Referendum Ballot Papers Contain Original Eight Propositions
MONROVIA – The Supreme Court has ordered the National Elections Commission (NEC) to ensure that all eight propositions mentioned in the joint resolution of the Legislature that sanctioned the need for a referendum appear on the ballot paper.
The Supreme Court’s unanimous decision was a result of a petition for a Writ of Prohibition on the Referendum scheduled for December 8 along with the Special Senatorial Election and two by-elections.
The petition was filed by the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) that comprise four major opposition political parties.
They had raised several reasons for which they sought a prohibition on the December 8 referendum including lack of sufficient time for public awareness. They had argued that electorates have not been educated enough on the various propositions of the referendum and how to go about voting.
The Supreme Court ruled that “Article 92 of the Constitution is devoid of any timeframe for the dissemination of information and awareness on the Referendum. This being the prerogative of the respondents, this Court is not in the position to determine what constitutes sufficient public awareness and information, especially where the petitioners have admitted in their petition that indeed, some public awareness was undertaken by the 1st Respondent [National Elections Commission] on the Referendum; consequently, the first respondent is not proceeding by wrong rule; hence prohibition will not lie.”
The Supreme Court, however, upheld the CPP’s argument that the government of Liberia was deviating from the clear language of the Resolution of the Legislature by combining and condensing the eight propositions into three categories which was quite contrary to the provision of Article 92 of the Constitution which specifically mandates that each of the eight propositions be stated separately on the ballot to afford voters the opportunity to exercise their right of choice. The Bench agreed that the Government of Liberia proceeded wrongly and therefore, put a halt to the printing of only three propositions of the ballot paper.
The three condensed propositions are: the reductions of the term of the President from six to five years; Senator from nine to seven years, Representative from six to five years, and dual citizenship.
The House Plenary decisively agreed on Propositions 1 to 3, which say tenures for the President, Vice President and members of House of Representatives should be reduced from six (6) years to four (4) years; and the Senate’s should be reduced from nine (9) to six (6) years.
Propositions 6 and 7 reject Dual Citizenship and demand the restriction of citizenship to persons of Negro descent only.
The House Plenary has also passed the date for election, to be changed from the second week in October to the second week in March of the election year, to be tried in the referendum as well as the enhancement of women participation in governance and national affairs of Liberia.
It was discussed that the affirmative action clause be recognized as the seventh item for the referendum, which would take in Affirmative Action for Equal Participation and Representation.
The Supreme Court ruled, “The alternative writ of prohibition issued is sustained and the temporary writ prayed for is granted. The NEC is hereby prohibited from printing ballots for the Referendum contrary to Joint Resolution LEG-002/2019 of the Legislature and Article 92 of the Constitution.”